3. The Meze Audio Empyrean
The Empyrean isn’t really difficult to drive though it does scale up nicely with a good amplifier. The Empyrean for sure is a warmer sounding headphone and the 3XP can’t get round that. The Empyrean is also a headphone that is very full sounding and in which bass plays a prominent roll. The Conductor 3XP makes the best of it without adding anything and this results in a very musical, smooth and warmer sound but with great resolution, depth and layering. The timbre and smoothness here is lovely but this isn’t the setup for the audiophile looking for neutrality. If this is more what you want then you for sure have use it with the single ended output where you will get less body, warmth and smoothness. But in all honesty, if neutral is what you want, the Empyrean is not the headphone to look at.
4. The Sennheiser HD800
A notorious classic, you either like it or hate it. This is the first dynamic driven headphone in this list and it comes in at 300Ohm. I in general prefer listening to the HD800 from a warm sounding OTL Tube Amp such as the LaFigaro 339 or the BottleHead Crack, but I’m pleasantly surprised with the 3XP, especially in balanced mode.
The sound stage width and depth of course is huge and you get the airy and spacious presentation you’re used to from the HD800. At the same time the 3XP gives the HD800 enough body, fulness and smoothness to make listening to the HD800 really enjoyable. You don’t get an analytic monster but a musically, full sounding high level headphone with a neutral tuning. I think many that don’t appreciate the HD800 will actually quite like it in combination with the Conductor 3XP. I do recommend to use the balanced output though, as the single ended one just doesn’t achieve to get the same synergy.
5. The Focal Utopia
This is a reference dynamic headphone I have a love-hate relationship with and I had no idea in what direction it was going to go with this Burson amp. Turns out I actually like this 80Ohm headphone in both single ended as well as in balanced mode. In balanced mode you have more fullness and more extension where the single ended mode puts the vocals more upfront.
The extension in both modes is great as well as the depth and the layering. Body is good from bass to highs and the layering is exemplary. The treble section is very clear and lively but to me never sounded harsh or sibilant. All-in-all a very nice surprise and I’ll surely pick up the Utopia more now knowing how well it combines with the Conductor 3XP.
6. The Beyerdynamic DT1990 PRO
Dynamic headphone number 3, coming in at 250Ohm, is from Beyerdynamic. The DT1990 PRO for some reason is a headphone I don’t often use but each time I come back to it I really love it.
The synergy with the 3XP in single ended mode also is excellent and especially the bass and treble section are impressive. Bass reaches down very low with thunderous sub rumble, yet it never is big in body or delivery. Bass will not overpower and it’s purely quantity over quantity. The treble section is very clean and clear and extends well. The over all sound stage is with and deep and has excellent layering and spaciousness/separation. The vocals here are bit more to the front, but that’s just a characteristic of the Beyer.
7. The Rosson Audio Design RAD-0
The RAD-0 is one of the latest orthodynamic flagship headphones and one in which the sound stage, spaciousness, mids texture and bass impact play a prominent roll. I with most amplifiers prefer listening to the RAD-0 in balanced mode but with the 3XP it kind of depends on the music. In balanced mode the bass gets bigger presence and it isn’t always the tightest. In single ended mode bass is more refined, tight and in control. The mids get the most spacious presentation with the balanced output where the timbre and smoothness are also more present. The mids in single ended more are somewhat dryer and less bodied and the vocals show up more in front. So far this is probably to most difficult headphone for the 3XP, though that is the headphone’s fault.
8. The Hifiman Susvara
With its 60Ohm impedance and only 83dB sensitivity, this is another notorious and hard to drive planar headphone. This is the second Hifiman in this list and the last one. The “HE-1000SE” you ask? Well that one sounds good from anything, so I kept it out of this list (it’s a compliment!).
The Susvara sounds best with really powerful amps and the 3XP’s volume in low gain mode goes all the way up. The Conductor does manage to pull it off though, even in low gain. In balanced mode you get bigger bass, fuller mids and a smoother delivery, as well as the widest sound stage and most spacious presentation. In single ended mode you get a lighter presentation with a lot less bass and thinner mids. The presentation is more neutral and refined. It’s a very different sounding Susvara. Personally I find the Susvara to have the most musical and technical delivery from the balanced output.
The 3XP won’t make the Thror sit more comfortable on your head but boy will it impress with its sound in balanced mode. The sound stage and spaciousness as well as the timbre and extension are at the highest level. Bass will reach really deep with good rumble and volume and impact are powerful. What I really like in this combo are the spacious mids with their sweet timbre. Female vocals sound especially good. In single ended mode you get a more neutral and civilized sound with less bass presence/impact and overall body. Bass-wise it here is quality over quantity but bass will show up when needed. I really appreciate the Thror and 3XP synergy, and this in both modes. A really good combo.
10. The HEDD Audio HEDDphone
This full range AMT driven headphones needs quite a bit of power to sound its best but the 3XP makes it look easy. If you want the most neutral presentation, the single ended output is the way to go. If you want a fuller sound with a lot more bass and smoother mids, the balanced output is the way to go. To myself the HEDD sounds best when it’s most powerful, so in balanced mode. But this might completely different to you. Anyway, it’s very safe to say that the Conductor 3XP also drives this headphones without any difficulty. What a great headphone this is. If you haven’t had the chance yet to listen to it, arrange a demo somewhere. Do try to forget about its weight though.
The +1 headphone is not a reference headphone of any kind and it’s probably the cheapest one in my collection: The classic Beyerdynamic DT770 PRO/32. The reason this one is getting a special mention here is because I find the synergy with the 3XP to be exceptional. It’s not the kind of headphone I tend to use in combination with an amplifier, but when I didn’t feel like switching sources before a conference call, I ended up using the DT770/32 “amped”. We all know the DT770 is a really good headphone but with the 3XP it turns out to be exceptionally good. If you can listen to this combo, certainly do so.
I have to admit I didn’t really use the 3XP in combination with IEMs. The IEMS I have in rotation are the hardest to drive so there was no real need for amplification and I hardly use IEMs at home. I did use the Unique Melody MEST with the 3XP for last Sunday’s article and the combo sounded very good. I only needed very little volume on the dial in low gain, but it’s more important that there was no audible noise. IT’s not directly an amplifier I would recommend for IEMs, though it can do the job.
After all these headphone testing it’s safe to say that the Conductor 3XP is one of those amplifiers that makes all headphones sound as good as they can. The 3XP has all the power it needs to drive all types of headphones and it lets you choose between the sound signatures of the balanced and single ended headphone outputs.
The article continues on the fifth page with comparisons and the conclusion. Click here or use the jumps below.